Swissful Thinking - 48 Hours in Geneva

You wouldn’t be surprised to know that Swiss banks handle some $4 trillion in assets. But you might be surprised to learn that Geneva is a good bet for a 48-hour city getaway. Sat Bal makes a discovery. 

The oft-perceived status of Geneva as a ‘flyover’ city sandwiched between Paris and Milan belies Geneva’s tourism potential. To get past Geneva’s public image as a centre of diplomacy and finance is to uncover an ultraworld of craftsmanship, cultural wealth and the finest gourmet dining. And a short break to this city won’t break the bank - but more of that later.       



We flew out from London City airport, eliminating the hassle of navigating London’s neighbouring airports. Swiss International Air Line’s services whisk passengers to Geneva in just an hour and a half. On arrival in Geneva public transport from the airport is free and fast. Trains take just six minutes to reach Geneva station and run every 12 minutes.

Tourists take maximum advantage of the free public transport, gliding  along the river and taking in grandstand views of the majestic Jet d’Eau. In summer the Bains des Pâquis, across from the Jet d’Eau, becomes a  ‘city beach’ where visitors relax and indulge in seasonal activities.

This compact city makes walking easy particularly with the mountain-lakes setting of Mont-Blanc as the scenic backdrop. 



Reception at the Bristol

The Hotel Bristol on Rue du Mont-Blanc served as our home and was reached by a five-minute walk from the station. Billed as a ‘4-star superior’ there was little to distinguish it from a 5-star, apart from the competitive price. 

Located in the heart of the city the hotel exudes wood-panelled luxury and a classic charm. Swiss hospitality comes to the fore with the staff perceptively tuned to guests’ requirements. The stylish, comfortable rooms feature marble bathrooms and are an elegant welcome to the city. They range from Classic rooms (24 sqm) to the imposing Duplex Suites (40 sqm plus) and the pinnacle Lounge Suite (up to 100 sqm) adorned with Louis XV furnishings. The Bristol also offers an intermediate range of rooms with room rates designed to suit most pockets.

The day gets off to a quirkily relaxing start in the breakfast lounge - when was the last time you were serenaded by a harpist at breakfast? A daily performance nicely sets the tone for the hotel’s champagne buffet breakfast.




The hotel & restaurant La Cigogne in the nearby Place de Longemalle 17 continues the hospitality flair. Dinner here is a long, languid affair and the restaurant’s mahogany surrounds and stained glass ceiling rendered us pleasantly immobile. Course after course of fine fare had been perfected by Xavier Daien, the restaurant’s 29-year old chef, who has prospered under the tutelage of Gordon Ramsay and Anne-Sophie Pic. Chef Daien cites Dubai among his culinary influences and by the end of dinner he’d succeeded in taking the palates across his gastronomic globe.


Le Flacon prepares for another busy night

Geneva is famed for its gourmet dining and the city twinkles with over 50 Michelin stars. So it was with some anticipation that we visited the newly Michelin-decorated Le Flacon restaurant on Rue Vautier 45, located in the boho cool of the Carouge district.

The good news is that Le Flacon’s hot-ticket status hasn’t made prices prohibitive so the menu bill is within the reach of most visitors. The Fera du lac tasted as good as expected from fish freshly caught from Lake Geneva. Don’t miss out on the citron et noisettes dessert which memorably blends pear ice cream and lemon tartlets!     


Old Town & Les Rues Basses

The omnipresent Jet d'Eau

Step back into time and Geneva’s Old Town past where narrow paths wind through the city’s poignant history. The Reformation Wall immortalises the events and people of the Protestant Reformation. The Saint Pierre Cathedral is a must-visit and harbours an imposing heritage dating back to the Roman Empire.

Shake yourself out of the historical reverie with a tour that combines the city’s two big deals: wine and lakes. Geneva wines earned 10 international prizes in 2010 and La Cave de Genève is at the forefront of wine production here. This makes it an ideal host for our wine-tasting boat trip. The Jet d’Eau never looked so inspiring as we savoured the sparkle of the company’s medal-winning Baccarat range of wines, lakeside. La Cave’s cultivation of 27 different varieties of grape has created a successful company that claims an annual turnover of around 15 million CHF. Readers who love their wine should take note of the ‘Open House Day’ event at Geneva’s wineries day on May 24.



Crafted by Philippe the chocolatier, commissioned by Chopard 

The Swiss obsession with high-end crafting is amply demonstrated by the sparkling wares of Rolex, Chopard and similar globally renowned brands. But as our 48 hours dwindled, a trip to chocolate atelier Philippe Pascoët Chocolatier revealed a different kind of precision thanks to a tour of their small factory. Drop in when you’re in Carouge (rue Saint-Joseph 12) area and sample the beautifully presented and created chocolate; an ideal gift package.

As departure time looms it’s easy to muse that so much can be packed into two days. Alas, there was no time to indulge in the ample water-based sports on offer. But with just a 1.30hr flight in prospect, maybe it’s time to put Paris and Milan on hold for that next weekend flit? 


Red Carpet was a guest of Swiss International Air Lines   swiss.com

& The Hotel Bristol   www.bristol.ch

For the chance to win a weekend away see:  www.jetofftogeneva.com   

Courtesy of Geneva Tourism http://www.geneve-tourisme.ch/en/home/



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